Save $3,500 this Year by Removing These 6 Things

Saving Money

 

Saving money is no easy task! Only after dedication and determination, can you look successfully into your account to see the difference saving can make. At Alpine Bank, we’re excited to help you achieve your financial goals, and we can’t wait to get started! If you’re looking to tuck some funds away for an emergency savings, or vacation fund, these six tips can help you accumulate $3,500 in savings over the course of the next year.

  1. $720: Cut the cable – at $60+ each month this common expense eat up your budget in a hurry!
  2. $1400: Brew your own java – instead of grabbing a latte on your way to work make your own cup of joe and save that extra $4/day.
  3. $600: Plan Your Meals – instead of playing by ear each night for dinner, make a dedicated meal plan each week and stick to it. This will help cut costs on eating out and unused groceries. Remove one dining out meal each month and see the difference this can make!
  4. $468: Workout at home – the average gym membership runs $39/month which over the course of the year can add up quick. Try online workout videos and create a routine which uses various household items.
  5. $312: Pack your lunch – With most quick lunches running about $10/each, sneaking away for lunch could be costing you! Try packing a lunch from home to avoid these expensive dining options. Changing just three lunches each month could save you more than three-hundred dollars!

 

Learn how to open up your ideal savings account at Alpine Bank to get started on your savings dreams today!

Retirement Planning: The Basics

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Determine your retirement income needs

It’s common to discuss desired annual retirement income as a percentage of your current income. The problem is that it doesn’t account for your specific situation. To determine your specific NEEDS, you may want to estimate your annual retirement expenses.  You can use your current expenses as a starting point, but note that your expenses may change dramatically by the time you retire.  You should also take inflation into account. The average annual rate of inflation over the past 20 years has been approximately 2.3 percent. (Source: Consumer price index data published by the U.S. Department of Labor, January 2015.) A realistic estimate of your expenses will tell you about how much yearly income you’ll need to live comfortably.

Calculate the gap

Once you have estimated your retirement income needs, take stock of your estimated future assets and income. These may come from Social Security, a retirement plan at work, a part-time job, and other sources. If estimates show that your future assets and income will fall short of what you need, the rest will have to come from additional personal retirement savings.

Figure out how much you’ll need to save

By the time you retire, you’ll need a nest egg that will provide you with enough income to fill the gap left by your other income sources. But exactly how much is enough? The following questions may help you find the answer:

  • At what age do you plan to retire? The younger you retire, the longer your retirement will be, and the more money you’ll need to carry you through it.
  • What is your life expectancy? The longer you live, the more years of retirement you’ll have to fund.
  • What rate of growth can you expect from your savings now and during retirement?
  • What do you want to do in retirement?

Build your retirement fund: Save, save, save

When you know roughly how much money you’ll need, your next goal is to save that amount. It’s never too early to get start saving (ideally, begin saving in your 20s). You may want to arrange to have certain amounts taken directly from your paycheck and automatically invested in accounts of your choice. This arrangement reduces the risk of impulsive spending that will threaten your savings plan.

Understand your investment options

You need to understand the types of investments that are available, and decide which ones are right for you. If you don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to do this yourself, hire a financial professional. He or she will explain the options that are available to you, and will assist you in selecting investments that are appropriate for your goals, risk tolerance, and time horizon. Note that investments may involve the risk of loss of principal.

Investment and insurance products are: not FDIC insured; not guaranteed; and, may be subject to investment risk, including possible loss of principal.

The Real Cost of a Fixer Upper

Home Mortgage

Throughout your real estate search, you’ve probably asked yourself the infamous question, “What would Chip and Joanna do?” With HGTV’s Fixer Upper series gaining popularity, more and more families are looking to buy inexpensive fixer uppers to fulfill their home buying dreams. Filled with projects, setbacks, and endless design potentials, these diamonds in the rough come with their own unique set of pros and cons. Luckily, Alpine Bank is here to help you discover the true cost to working through your own fixer upper.

Every home has different needs, but these are some key expenses you’ll need to plan for when purchasing a fixer upper:

  • Realtor Fee: If you’re selling your current property, be prepared to fork over the 6 percent fee to have your home sold. Ideally you’re looking to sell your home for a higher dollar than you purchased it for, but this is not always the case. Be sure to have some funds in reserve just in case you have to cover the realtor fee out of your own pocket.
  • Construction Costs: Typically divided into two billing arenas, you can expect to either pay one lump sum, or a calculated cost of labor, materials, and an added profit margin. Expect to pay $100-$200 per square foot of intensive renovation work.
  • Materials: The more upgrades you want, the faster your price will climb. While simply getting the property up to speed is a task all its own, creating your own customized space inside will continue to add dollars and cents to your overall bill.
  • Furnishings: Depending on the format of your last home, you may be upgrading your furniture in this new abode. After various searches and bargain finds, you’ll still need to tuck away some extra funds to ensure you can furnish the home once it is finished.
  • Landscaping: Now that the house is complete, it’s time get to work on the curb appeal – and it isn’t cheap! With an average price tag of $5,000, finishing your home with a completed landscape design can also add to the overall budget.

Altogether, purchasing a fixer upper may cost about the same as a newer home purchase after the cost of renovations. The advantage to these love-needing homes however, is their potential for customization, and creating the ideal home for you and your family. If you’re looking to repair or update your next home, consider financing through one of our structured Home Equity Lines of Credit. Our experienced mortgage lenders are here to help you every step of the way!

 

 

What Is Inflation and Why Should You Care About It?

ABANK_12_FacebookPrices: Up, up and away

Inflation occurs when there is more money circulating than there are goods and services to buy. The process is like trying to attend a sold-out concert at the last minute; there is more demand for tickets than there are tickets to go around. As a result, tickets may trade hands for far more than their stated prices. When there’s a lot of demand for goods and services, their prices usually go up. The law of supply and demand produces price inflation.

Inflation cuts purchasing power

When some people say, “I’m not an investor,” it’s often because they worry about the potential for loss. It’s true that investing involves risk as well as reward. However, there’s also another type of loss to be aware of: the loss of purchasing power.

Inflation is painful enough when you experience a sharp jump in prices. However, the bigger problem with inflation is not just the immediate impact, but its effects over time. Because of inflation, each dollar you’ve saved will buy less and less as time goes on. At 3% annual inflation, something that costs $100 today would cost $181 in 20 years.

What’s Your Spending Style?

Personal Finances

Everyone spends and saves differently. There are spending personalities on all ends of the spectrum that range from extreme spenders to tireless penny pinchers. Discover what type of spender you are with this helpful quiz courtesy of Alpine Bank.

What’s your typical lunch during the workweek?

A: A packed lunch, typically leftovers from the night before.

B: A variety of prepared lunches from home and a handful of takeout meals throughout the month.

C: I usually grab something from one of the local restaurants during my lunch break, occasionally I’ll bring something from home if it was really good.

D: I can’t get through the day without my latte in the morning, and a solid lunch out of the office in the afternoon.

How important is your credit score to you personally?

A: I live and breathe by this number, it influences almost all of my buying decisions.

B: I check my credit every month, it’s important to know where you stand.

C: I have a general idea where I’m at, but it’s not the first thing on my mind.

D: What’s a credit score?

If you want something that is $3,000 but you only have $1,500 available funds in your account what would you do?

A: Wait until I can save the additional $1,500 I need before purchasing it.

B: Compromise on a similar item that only costs the $1,500 I currently have.

C: Purchase the $3,000 item, paying $1,500 up front, and putting the rest on credit.

D: Purchase the $3,000 item and put it all on credit.

What does retirement savings mean to you?

A: Roth IRA, 401(k), stocks, bonds, and personal savings.

B: Using my work benefits along with personal savings.

C: I think I get something for retirement through my place of employment.

D: Something I don’t have to worry about until I’m older.

When you see an exciting impulse buy, how do you manage the situation?

A: I remind myself I’m here for these 5 items and nothing else.

B: I remember I already bought a small impulse buy yesterday, so this one could potentially harm my budget.

C: I made it through the work day today, I deserve this.

D: I already have 4 other things I wasn’t expecting to buy, what’s one more?

 

If most of your answers were [A] then you are a Penny Pincher: For you, finances are the key to your existence. All aspects of your financials are crafted into a strategic plan to make the most out of your various savings accounts. You’re the first to suggest a restaurant based on cost, and the last to splurge on a large purchase. Typically you’re also the person other family members typically ask for well-rounded financial advice.

If most of your answers were [B] then you are a Balanced Budgeter: In your world, the life of a budget doesn’t have to centered around a hunker down mentality. A budget is a fluid medium that is meant to be customizable to you and your needs. Occasionally an added expenses or unforeseen purchase is needed or warranted, but overall, you ensure you and your family stay on track with a well thought out financial plan.

If most of your answers were [C] then you are a Cautious Creditor: Although much of your financial expertise is based on credit card rewards, and other point benefits, you do care about your money management. While not all your choices are made to help boost your savings, there are certain measures you take on a continual basis to help push your financial goals forward.

If most of your answers were [D] then you are a Debt Developer: Often times you spend more than you intend. Between check-out line snacks, and lunch time splurges, your bank account just tries to keep up. Understanding your financials isn’t necessarily first on your list of priorities, but there are certainly some things you know you could improve. You appreciate the things you purchase and genuinely enjoy the experience of shopping.

No matter what type of spender you are, Alpine Bank is here to help you succeed. For everything from setting up savings accounts, to consulting on wealth management, we have everything you need to continue your financial success. Give us a call at (815) 398-6500 or stop by today to get started!

 

Personal Financial Planning

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Financial planning is the process that can help you pursue your goals by evaluating your whole financial picture, then outlining strategies that are tailored to your individual needs and available resources.

The financial planning process

Developing a comprehensive financial plan and putting it in place generally involves the following steps:

  • Take account of your income, assets, regular monthly expenses, and liabilities; evaluate your insurance, your investments and savings, and your estate plan
  • Establish and prioritize your financial goals and set a time frame for each
  • Identify areas of financial concern and financial strengths
  • Monitor your plan and make adjustments as your goals, time frames, and circumstances change
  • Use the services of financial professionals who have the expertise necessary to provide objective information and help you implement your plan results

Set and prioritize financial goals

Determining financial priorities and goals is ultimately the responsibility of you and your family. Start by making a list of your short-term goals (e.g., new car, vacation) and your long-term goals (e.g., home purchase, child’s education, retirement). Then try to prioritize those goals. How important is each goal to you and your family? How much will you need to save in order to reach each goal? Once you have a clearer picture of your goals, you can work toward establishing a budget that can help you pursue them.

Establish a budget

Creating and maintaining a budget may not only help you target your financial goals, but regularly reviewing and updating your budget can help keep you on track. To develop a budget that is appropriate for your lifestyle, you’ll need to identify your current monthly income and expenses.

Start by adding up all your income. Next, add up all your expenses. It helps to divide them into two categories: fixed expenses (e.g., housing, food, clothing, and transportation) and discretionary expenses (e.g., entertainment, vacations, and hobbies). You’ll also want to make sure that you have identified any out-of-pattern expenses, such as holiday gifts, car maintenance, and home repair.

Once you’ve added up all your income and expenses, compare the two totals. If you find yourself spending more than you earn, you’ll need to make some adjustments. Look at your expenses closely and cut down on your discretionary spending.

Tips to help you stay on track

  • Stay disciplined: Make budgeting a part of your daily routine
  • Distinguish between expenses that are “wants” and expenses that are “needs”
  • Avoid using credit cards to pay for everyday expenses: It may seem as though you’re spending less, but your credit-card debt may continue to increase

Investment and insurance products are: not FDIC insured; not guaranteed; and, may be subject to investment risk, including possible loss of principal.

The Route to Home Ownership

Mortgages

The journey to becoming a first time owner is an exciting and personal process. With questions ranging from price, commodities, to neighborhoods and more, the task of finding your ideal property can seem daunting. At Alpine Bank we want to help you make the most of your home buying experience with our guided route to home ownership. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the view as we take you step by step through the first time home buying process.

  1. Assess your personal finances. Take a good hard look at your current sources of income, in addition to the underlying expenses you have each month. Determine if your funds can support the cost of a monthly mortgage, property taxes, home insurance, and all the other associated costs of home ownership.
  2. Mortgage Pre-Approval. Once you’ve decided to make the jump into home ownership it’s time to determine what your ideal purchase price will look like. Work with one of our mortgage lenders to decide on the best price range for you and your family. After determining your financing needs together, we will evaluate your credit history award you with a pre-approval letter for the amount we will agree to finance.
  3. Find “The House.” Here comes the fun part – house hunting! Pair up with a reputable realtor to look at houses that do not exceed the approved purchase price. You may look at six homes, or even thirteen, but once you find the right property you’ll know it’s the one!
  4. Get an approved offer. After touring the property and checking for any major repairs, speak with your realtor about putting in an offer on the house at a price within your budget. The seller may counter with a different price point, and negotiations for the offer can be discussed with your realtor. When you and the seller have agreed to a purchase price and a finalized offer is signed you officially have an accepted offer to purchase your future home!
  5. Speak with your mortgage lender. Now that you’ve found your new place, your mortgage lender can gather accurate tax information and further specifics for your mortgage financing. Reach out to confirm the terms of the loan prior to closing to help ensure a smooth transition.
  6. Home Inspection. Since you and the buyer now have an accepted agreement it’s time to fully inspect the property you intend on buying. Speak with your realtor for recommended home inspectors in the area, and set up a time when both you and the realtor can be present. The home inspector will detail notes about the property concerning safety hazards and other important repairs that should be taken care of at the seller’s expense.
  7. Close the offer. After all the paperwork is finalized, and you complete the final walk through of the home, it’s finally time to receive your mortgage financing and close the home offer.
  8. The House is yours. All your hard work has paid off and you are now a home owner! Celebrate this monumental achievement by inviting family and friends over for a moving or house warming party!

Whether you’re looking for a peaceful cottage in the country or new construction in the city , Alpine Bank can help you with all your financing needs. Stop by the bank or give us a call at (815) 398-6500 and get started on your home buying journey today!

Brexit: What Does It All Mean?

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Elizabeth S. Pierson, CFA

On June 23rd, the citizens of the United Kingdom voted to exit from the European Union (EU) with a 52% to 48% in favor vote.  Breaking down the vote, Scotland, Northern Ireland and London proper voted overwhelmingly in favor of staying in the EU, while rural areas of the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU.  This vote was essentially about immigration and trade. Similar to other nations, the rural areas have experienced more disruption by globalization as the world economy continues to be sluggish resulting in economic hardship for those further away from the cities.  This has led to an increase in nationalistic and protectionist movement.

Although it is no surprise that the markets reacted negatively to the news, they were very orderly with no major disruptions in trading and liquidity.  There was shock and disappointment by the financial markets, leading to an emotional response and a potential overreaction in the equity markets.  A flight to quality was spurred, moving the dollar higher versus other currencies and sending U.S. treasury yields to lows not seen since 2012.  As the news settled in, these markets rebounded slightly but still left investors with a sense of concern.

What does this mean for the future of the global economy and investing?  Following are key points regarding the long-term impact on portfolios.

  1. Two years for implementation – The effects of today’s vote will not be felt immediately. The United Kingdom’s exit from the E.U. will be a gradual process.   Once the UK has triggered Article 50 (the article that states the wish to exit the EU), there is a two year time frame for full implementation.  The process of negotiating with the EU may be challenging as the EU does not want other member countries to think it is easy to break away from the Union.  This is likely to cause more volatility in the market.
  2. Slower growth – The United Kingdom’s rate of economic growth may slow, potentially leading to a recession.  The British pound has weakened and may continue to weaken leading to several positive outcomes including cheaper exports and lower interest rates. European economic growth may be negatively impacted but the U.S. economy should not.  The United Kingdom is only 4% of the World’s GDP and because full implementation will span two years, it provides time for transition and adjustment.
  3. Low interest rates – Interest rates will continue to be suppressed.  The Bank of England has pledged to provide liquidity and will potentially lower rates.  A rate cut is being priced into the market as of this morning.  The disruption in the markets and the potential impact of this change likely allows the Federal Reserve to maintain rates at current levels for a longer period of time and move future rate hikes to later this year or early next year.
  4. Volatility = long-term opportunity – Market volatility provides opportunities to long-term investors.  We expect increased volatility in currency and equity markets due to this recent decision but believe that the U.S. economy will continue on its slow growth trajectory, providing growth for long-term investors.

This action creates risks to the political and economic landscape.  Despite the increased volatility, we believe the rewards outweigh the risks for long-term market investors.  We will be closely monitoring this situation.   If needed, we will make appropriate adjustments to our portfolio.  As it stands today, we do not believe changes are warranted as a result of this vote.

Elizabeth S. Pierson, CFA, is SVP, Chief Investment Officer at Alpine Trust & Investment Group. She’s a Chartered Financial Analyst and has more than 31 years of experience.

Investment and insurance products are: not FDIC insured; not guaranteed; and, may be subject to investment risk, including possible loss of principal.

Six Small Ways to Save Big Money

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Instead of focusing a lot of effort on making many changes to your spending habits, these six areas of your financial life can yield big savings and earnings with just a few small tweaks.

  1. Insurance

Many insurance carriers offer a bundling discount if you purchase multiple insurance plans through them. If you have two cars, insure both with the same firm, and consider using that firm for your rental or home owners insurance too. Ask your broker for other discounts you might be eligible for. Another great way to save on auto insurance is to increase your deductible to lower your monthly premiums.

  1. Your home

If you’re currently looking for a new home, try to purchase one that costs less than what you think you can afford, and don’t forget to factor in association fees, taxes, homeowners insurance and other costs that come with owning a home. If you already own a home, consider refinancing to potentially save hundreds each month. Finally, making your home safer (by installing a smoke detector, for example) can decrease your home owners insurance premiums.

  1. Debt payment

If you can, pay off your credit card bills in full each month so you won’t ever have to pay interest. To prevent having to put large amounts of money on a credit card with a high interest rate, save up an emergency fund for unexpected expenses. If you’ve already charged a sizable debt, develop a debt repayment plan and work it into your budget so you can pay off your cards as soon as possible and pay less interest in the long run. If you’re in good standing, it’s worth it to contact your credit card company to request a lower interest rate.

  1. Spending plan

Think of your budget as a way to organize your spending, not necessarily limit it. You can automate your finances to make sure your savings and investing goals are always met and your bills are always paid on time. This will save you money by avoiding late fees and penalties. By having a budget, you’re less likely to waste money on purchases you’ll later regret.

  1. Taxes

Make sure you’re taking advantage of applicable deductions and credits. To lower your taxable income, contribute money to a 401(k), IRA or 529 plan. To minimize your capital gains tax, consider selling some of your investments at a loss—but make sure you’re not using taxes as your main motivation for selling. Another easy way to get a tax deduction is to make a charitable contribution. Finally, a Health Savings Account is a tax-free way to save money for health expenses. The money goes into the account tax-free and is exempt from taxes upon distribution.

  1. Investing

The best way to get a return on your investment is to start early. Open a retirement plan and begin contributing as soon as possible so your money can experience the “magic of compounding” that only happens over time. Keep in mind that frequent trading and investing small amounts over time may cost more in commission and fees. Research the fees associated with your investments to make more strategic decisions or consider switching to a lower cost plan.

Sometimes the smartest financial moves (such as investing or buying insurance) can quickly eat away at your budget. By making small changes in these six areas, you can save significant amounts of money without significant effort.

Investment and insurance products are: not Alpine Bank products; not FDIC insured; not guaranteed; and, may be subject to investment risk, including possible loss of principal.

Time Can Be a Strong Ally in Saving for Retirement

ABANK_16_Facebook_v4Father Time doesn’t always have a good reputation, particularly when it comes to birthdays. But when it comes to saving for retirement, time might be one of your strongest allies. Why? When time teams up with the growth potential of compounding, the results can be powerful.

Time and money can work together

The premise behind compounding is fairly simple. Your invested dollars may earn returns from those investments, then those returns may earn returns themselves–and so on. That’s compounding.

Compounding in action

To see the process at work, consider the following hypothetical example: Say you invest $1,000 and earn a return of 7%–or $70–in one year. You now have $1,070 in your account. In year two, that $1,070 earns another 7%, and this time the amount earned is $74.90, bringing the total value of your account to $1,144.90. Over time, if your account continues to earn positive returns, the process can gather steam and add up.

Now consider how compounding might work in your retirement plan. Say $120 is automatically contributed to your plan account on a biweekly basis. Assuming you earn a 7% rate of return each year, after 10 years, you would have invested $31,200 and your account would be worth $45,100. That’s not too bad. If you kept investing the same amount, after 20 years, you’d have invested $62,400 and your account would be worth $135,835. And after just 10 more years–for a total investment time of 30 years and a total invested amount of $93,600–you’d have $318,381. That’s the power of compounding at work.

Keep in mind that these examples are hypothetical, for illustrative purposes only, and do not represent the performance of any actual investment. Returns are likely to be different each year, and are not guaranteed.

Investment and insurance products are: not FDIC insured; not guaranteed; and, may be subject to investment risk, including possible loss of principal.